A Note from Annah Elizabeth

In the 1960s, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the world to the invaluable Five Stages of Grief: Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. What I understand of her work is that it teaches us that grief is random, that it is different for everyone, and that there is neither rhyme nor reason to the way in which the grief process unfolds. My husband and I were introduced to this theory by our hospital’s grieving specialist, days after our son died. Though this bit of knowledge, that my haphazard sorrow was somehow “normal,” helped me immensely in the years to come, what I came to desperately need and want was a means to help me make the transition from loss through grief and into healing.

That is, after all, one of the first questions we ask in the face of tragedy: How am I going to survive this? In other words, How am I going to heal?

The Five Steps of Healing is a process that enables us to systematically move between bereavement and recovery. Though there are five neatly ordered steps, it is important to note that, just as we move in and out of the various stages of grief, so too shall we weave back and forth between these five steps of healing. Each new phase of conflict resolution may bring with it the necessity to revisit the module. And it is equally important to note that, despite the presence of this simple and seemingly tidy methodology, the details we bring to the process are often more than a little messy…

 Step One: Choose Grief

Without grief, there’d be no need for healing. Before we can think about or enter into healing, we must first honor our sorrow; we must grant ourselves both space and permission to grieve.

Step Two: Choose Acceptance

Two of the biggest culprits that bind us to grief are 1) the sense that what we need to overcome strife is somehow outside of us and 2) a belief that we cannot survive a particular adversity. We often have this belief, be it subconscious or conscious, that if we had at our disposal different, or better resources (education, income, contacts, etc) we’d be able to move forward. We tell ourselves that others who have triumphed over tragedy can do so because they possess something we don’t have. Accepting that we cannot change the past and that we have both the resources (The 5 Facets) and the ability to facilitate our own healing is imperative to the process.

Step Three: Choose Your Facets

The Five Facets exists as a hierarchy of the personal traits that drive our conflicts and our successes. Choosing our facets hierarchy helps us get closer to the sources of our strengths and our suffering.

If two or more of these characteristics seem to be tied for position, delve deeper. For instance, at first thought, The Academic and Social facets seemed to be a photo finish for me, but upon closer evaluation, I determined that the social trait is number one because I tend to go to community first, to people’s stories, and then evaluate the perceptions and thoughts I’ve gathered.

Step Four: Choose Healing

Do the hard work. Using our facets list, we can begin identifying where our conflicts and struggles lie within each of the categories. Next, we can isolate each dilemma, immerse ourselves into its very core, and strategize ways to solve them or create a comfort level, one issue at a time. If one effort doesn’t bring us some measure of relief, we can try something different, evaluate those results, and move forward in the process.

Step Five: Choose Vitality

Practice. Practice. Practice. Even those of us who have experienced firsthand the truth that nothing in life is guaranteed fall victim to the drudgeries of day-to-day minutia and the return of old thinking and habits. Choosing vitality is a conscious and deliberate decision to prioritize the lessons we’ve learned and to continue implementing the strategies we’ve discovered.